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On Sunday, in the post-match press conference of the second ODI between Australia and Pakistan, Shoaib Malik, the stand in captain of Pakistan, concluded his talk by saying, “It’s not about winning the series, it’s about testing our bench strength”.
Very rarely do captains say stuff like that, especially in international sport. It showed the helplessness of Malik, that with this team of fringe players, he was unable to even put up a strong fight to the Aussies. Malik was critiqued heavily for his statement, but what he said seemed fit for the lacklustre performance of Pakistan in the first two games.
Out came Mickey Arthur, the Pakistan coach, on Tuesday, for a press conference, and stated emphatically, “Every time we play for Pakistan, we are playing to win”. This was something diametrically opposite to what the captain had said two days ago. Arthur further continued, “We are testing our bench strength, but we will never sacrifice our intensity and the will to win”.
“The attitude of the guys that we have around here has been incredible. These guys will become very, very good cricketers. The other players (rested for this series) have been in a tough system for two years. These guys are only now making their way, like Mohammad Hasnain, Abid Ali, Saad Ali. Shan Masood and Rizwan have been in and out of our ODI side. Umar Akmal is back. We are trying to increase the depth of Pakistan cricket.”
“We get castigated for not giving opportunities to the younger guys. Now we are giving them the opportunities, and we are being castigated again. There seems to be no winning. What people need to understand is that we are a very passionate cricket team and whenever we go on the field, it is to win. We represent 210 million people and it is so important. Myself, and Inzamam ul Haq (head of the Selection Panel) have a plan in place to have our core group of 15 players ready and firing to go by April 23, after which we go to England, to win the World Cup for Pakistan.”
His comments made it clear that the coach and the selection panel are on the same page. May be the stand-in captain is on a different page, or that was just out of frustration from Malik. The way Pakistanis show intensity and fight today, irrespective of the match outcome, will tell us who was more right.